One of my favorite home and garden tours was this weekend: the 11th annual Theodore Payne Foundation Native Plant Garden Tour. This year's tour offered participants a look at more than 40 Los Angeles area gardens that are environmentally conscious, drought tolerant and use native plants, among other attributes.
© Lisa Hallett Taylor
Native California plants provide habitats for butterflies and bees (pollinators) and native birds such as colorful songbirds and hummingbirds. Examples include richly scented plants like sage, sagebrush and California lilac. Some homes on the tour had unusual features or challenges, like extreme slopes, clay soil, use recycled materials or are certified National Wildlife Federation habitats.
April and May are the prime months for home and garden tours, and are a fun way to get ideas and spend a spring afternoon with someone you like. Check this list for a tour near you, or if you know of one that's not on this list (I'm sure there are dozens, if not hundreds), let me know on our official Facebook page about an upcoming tour.
Even if it doesn't look like spring in some regions, it is -- which means that warmer temperatures and entertaining outdoors are just around the corner. I promise.
I've been looking at some of the new tableware and drinkware from favorite stores like Pottery Barn, Sur La Table and Target, and I think it's time for to get rid of a few mismatching pieces and start fresh. Check out some of these great looking plates and acrylic glasses, along with beverage dispensers and outdoor tablecloths:
- Must-Have Outdoor Dishes and Tableware
- Drinkware for the Stylish Patio Table
- Pretty and Practical Outdoor Tablecloths
If you come across something you think would look great on your outdoor dining table, let us know on our Facebook page.
Happy spring! While it's currently overcast in Southern California, rain is forecast for the West and a blizzard threatens the Northeast, it is officially spring. Let us know on our Facebook page or Twitter what signs of spring you're experiencing in your part of the world, however minimal they might be.
I won't wax poetic or get philosophical about what I think spring might mean to all of us. Instead, here are 10 things to do to remind yourself it's spring:
- Transform your yard into a wildlife garden that is certified by the National Wildlife Federation. Who knows -- you already might have some of the requirements in place.
- Attend a local home and garden show.
- Live in a dry climate? Consider introducing some succulents into the garden.
- Groom the ornamental grasses that have gotten a bit shaggy over the past several months.
- Open your swimming pool or spa.
- Think about replacing some of the plants surrounding your pool.
- Go to a flea market and look for vintage or used patio furniture or try one of these other 10 ways to look for cheap outdoor furnishings.
- Check for leaks outside your house.
- Take pictures of your patio and post them to this site's Facebook page.
- Do one or more of the things on this other list, "Where to Go to Get Ideas."
St. Patrick's Day
Leprechaun sightings pick up around this time of year: tavern-going townsfolk report seeing them frolicking in forests, hiding in hedges and behind rocks in parks. There's even a webcam set up in the leprechaun mecca of Tipperary, Ireland. When the weather warms up, the mischievous Irish elves no doubt will be up to the usual shenanigans in this huge shamrock-shaped swimming pool at the Grand Prix Motel in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
And this isn't the only shamrock-shaped swimming pool in the world. If you know of one, post a photo on our Facebook page.
Photo © Grand Prix Motel
As a home-based editor, writer and designer, I spend lots of time in my yard -- I'm the sole landscaper, gardener and maintenance person for the front and back yards, not to mention two decks, one very long balcony and three patio areas. Oh, and a pool. So, it's nice to have someplace to sit in each of these areas to rest for a moment, survey the landscape and contemplate it, or set down some succulents I'm propagating and don't want to lose.
That's where a garden bench comes in. It doesn't have to be huge, nor does it have to necessarily have a backrest -- but its location and placement is integral. Of course, it's nice when the bench ties in with your landscape style or the architectural design of your home. Check out this photo gallery of benches -- some are works of art, while others are modest and serve a strictly utilitarian purpose. If you have a bench in your garden that you'd like to share, post it on the Pool and Patio Facebook page.
Photo © Lisa Hallett Taylor
As a powerful rainstorm is pounding Southern California, it's a good time to acquaint or refresh yourself on swimming pool and yard safety, no matter where you live. If you have a friend or relative who lives in an area that may be affected by a current or impending storm, or who live in a region prone to hurricanes or tornadoes, send them a link to this list of helpful articles on preparing your pool and yard before a hurricane or storm.
There's also information on what to do after the storm hits.
Planning a DIY outdoor project, hopefully with free designs? Thinking about switching over to a saltwater chlorinator for your pool? As February comes to an over-saturated (make that floods and freak tornadoes) end in my region, you can get those burning questions answered through one of my latest articles as your expert for About.com Pool and Patio:
- The Best Free Plans for DIY Outdoor Projects
- 10 Smart Reasons for Having a Saltwater Pool
- 20 Ways to 'Green' Your Pool or Spa
- Facts About Water Use
- The Best Free Garden Bench Plans
- Garden Benches: Ideas, Inspiration and Pictures
- What is a Cartridge Pool Filter?
- Pool Equipment: Getting to Know Your Swimming Pool
I have a banana tree growing right beside my swimming pool that's been there for at least a decade. Actually, the original one I planted produced bananas several years ago, then died - as they are predestined to do. Long before Mama Banana Tree started to show signs of aging, lovely young daughters, one or two at a time, sprouted near her trunk, ready to carry the torch.
Sometime late last summer, the largest of the trees produced that flowery protuberance that looks like Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors. Within a few weeks, the flowers had formed into fruits. Then started the months-long ripening process.
So, this morning, after a
deluge rainstorm, I looked out the window and noticed their time had come. Sorry, but it was nothing scientific or spiritual. The banana "stalk" was leaning over more than usual, and the bananas were yellow. Some were split. I clipped them with a pair of loppers and we now have our bumper crop of four homegrown bananas. Small, sweet, perfectly ripe. No bruises; no Dole or Chiquita labels.
Now we have to find a way to enjoy them all at once - maybe Bananas Oscar for the Academy Awards on Sunday night? Got a great banana recipe (other than banana bread)? Let me know - on the Pool and Patio Facebook page!
Photo of our poolside bananas during a more prolific year by Lisa Hallett Taylor
- More photos of poolside plants.
- More about banana trees.
- Messy plants you don't want near your pool
- Landscaping ideas for pool areas
While the snow may be piling up on the sidewalks outside The Philadelphia Convention Center, it won't stop the show from going on.
That's the 185th Philadelphia Flower Show, the largest indoor flower show in the world, and the United States' oldest home and garden show.
How old? Well, it started in 1829. To put it in perspective, that was President Andrew Jackson's first year in office, the year "American fashion designer" Levi Strauss was born and the year the typewriter was invented. That old.
The Philadelphia International Flower Show opens its doors to the public on Saturday, March 1st, and will continue to wow and warm attendees through Sunday, March 9th, 2014. The work of top landscape and floral designers are featured, and more than 10 acres of exhibit space have been transformed into a floral fantasy world with exotic plants and eclectic designs.
If you go to the show, be sure and let us know how it is on our Facebook page.
Philadelphia Flower Show photo courtesy of the PHS.
No doubt you celebrated the birthdays of George and Abe this past holiday weekend with cherry pie and sleeping in an extra day. But it might be a good time to reflect on the White House itself. Specifically, outside the White House -- where presidents and their families have played, entertained, relaxed and celebrated milestones.
Jimmy Carter built a treehouse at the White House.
It was the United States' second president, John Adams, who was the first to occupy the White House. Since then, each presidential family has left its mark on the outdoor living spaces of the executive mansion, whether it's been through planting trees and gardens or adding swimming pools and outdoor sculptures. At various times, the White House has had indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a hot tub, reflection pools, fountains, ponds and all sorts of patios, balconies, colonnades and porticoes.
Ready to take a tour of the White House grounds? Enjoy historical photos and a few surprises along the way. And enjoy your Presidents' weekend.
Photo courtesy: National Archives